I can’t keep up with what’s beautiful anymore. Between the campaigns for “real beauty” and the countless beauty product advertisements, I’m getting more mixed signals than L.C. did from Stephen on Laguna Beach (throwing it back in honor of their upcoming ten year reunion).

Am I supposed to be more curvy? More toned? Or should I be a little softer since women are made to carry babies? Should I grow my hair long or be that edgy girl with a pixie? Are freckles cute or am I expected to cover them with foundation? And somebody explain to me if a juicy butt is a good thing or a bad thing, because Baby Got Back and All About that Bass have me feeling really confident until I walk into a boutique and they seem to have forgotten 25% of the material needed to complete a pair of shorts. And then there are jeans. Somebody besides Apple Bottom please for the love of all things good and holy learn to design a pair of jeans that a relatively thin white girl like myself can wear if she still has a booty. I face the struggle of back gap* constantly.

*back gap: when your jeans fit over your butt, but since your waist is small, the pants leave a large gap at your lower back where the jeans don’t curve back in with your bod

I got a little carried away in that opening paragraph, but I’m not here to write about how we’re all beautiful in our own, natural, unique way. You’ve already read that article about 6,000 times- and it’s true. But there’s another side to things. I think the reason that I am getting so many mixed signals about beauty is because people don’t want to face something plain and simple: some people are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than others.

Just ask little babies who they want to look at for a longer period of time and they’ll tell you the same thing. They haven’t been influenced by culture or stereotypes, but according to researchers, babies fixate on pretty faces over- how do I put this lightly- “less pretty” faces. baby stareI don’t know exactly how far apart your eyes need to be or the chin to forehead ratio necessary to be considered beautiful, but we all know pretty when we see it. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you don’t think Halle Berry is an attractive human, then I’ll never be able to trust a word you say.

If you’re upset that I just said that some people are prettier than others, please take ten deep breaths. It’s okay. I urge you to continue reading.

If someone falls under the pretty category, that’s neither here nor there. I mean really- who cares? Yes, this is coming from someone who took part in beauty pageants. I have a lot of really pretty friends thanks to the Miss America Organization, but I am not friends with them because they’ve perfected how to apply lip liner without looking like Bozo the Clown or because they’re featured in WEN hair commercials. Those things are neat and do, in fact, make me fixate on them like a baby when we’re sitting across from each other at a bar, but it’s not why we’re friends.

Both in and outside the Miss America Organization, my best and favorite friends are those who make me laugh really hard, listen to me cry, open up about their lives, engage in deep and philosophical conversation, and who stick around when things get ugly. We’re talkin’ a bottle of wine each, pizza sauce on your face, and greasy hair ugly.

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I think we can all agree that our closest friendships have exactly 0% to do with bone structure. Therefore, why in the world do we worry about that when trying to attract a mate? Of course it’s important to shower and look like you give two flips about life, but nobody falls in love with pretty.

Recently, I met a good-looking male who reminded me of this lesson. I won’t say how recently because if this spreads on Facebook, I don’t have time for an unpleasant phone call…so let’s say that “recently” means within the last year. He was your standard looker. Tall, good hair, straight teeth, a nose I can’t remember, and looked like he could run at least a mile without needing medical attention. Solid.

The first night we met, I did not need to know if he could carry a conversation because the bar music was so loud that I was happy just bopping along, flashing him the occasional smile, and entertaining myself by developing intricate plans in my head as to how I could get the bartender to give me my next drink for free. The next time we hung out, I was thrilled to find out that he had a cool job, owned a house, and liked dogs, but by the end of the night felt like Fat Amy talking to Bumper Allen in Pitch Perfect. You know, that scene when Bumper says to her, “Soooo, I’m getting the feeling that we should kiss. Are you also getting that feeling?” to which Fat Amy replies, “Sometimes I get the feeling that I can do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm better not.” I’ve watched Pitch Perfect twice this week. I need you to get on my level.

Anyways, despite finding him about as interesting as Kristen Stewart, I figured this guy was worth another chance. I refused to believe someone so well-educated, handsome, and seemingly social could be as lame as I’d perceived. I must’ve caught him on an off night. During round two, somewhere between him openly checking out other girls right in front of me, dissing gay people (ahem, that means exactly a quarter of my entire friend group), and then trying to attack my face with his tongue as I swerved left (I think he pretty much licked my right temple), I decided that I should never, ever question my instincts again.

You see, he was pretty, but that made me about as interested as a dog is in a grape. It rolls off the counter and the dog instinctually goes over to it, but after one sniff, says “mmm, better not.” As I look at the wedding and engagement photos flooding my social media accounts, I’ve noticed that there is no correlation between good looks and marriage. I see “less pretty” people marry other “less pretty” people, “less pretty” people marry “pretty” people, and “pretty” people marry “pretty” people. I’m sure all of these couples are attracted to each other on some physical level- at least I would hope so, but I guarantee that most of them became more attracted to one another as they grew emotionally, spiritually, and mentally closer.

Physical attraction is crucial (I can’t stand when people say it’s not), however it doesn’t simply mean that you think someone is the second coming of Chris Pine or Heidi Klum upon first glance. I wouldn’t be mad at ALL if I end up with a Chris Pine clone, but the point is that in a culture that talks so much about beauty, we need to remember that it holds no importance when it comes to finding love.

Love runs a lot deeper than a perfectly executed cat eye, toned and tanned legs, or a flawless fitted tee/jean combo. It’s an inexplicable connection, dedication over time, and a shared desire to eat a ton of sushi always lift up the other person. So instead of spending so much energy improving and talking about looks, perhaps we should channel that energy into bettering ourselves so that when Mr./Miss Right does come around, we’re the kind of person they’ve been hoping for, too. One of my favorite pieces of advice is Be the person who the person you’re looking for is looking for.

Working on yourself is different than changing yourself, and I highly recommend it! Because, let me repeat, nobody falls in love with pretty.